This marks the latest installment in City Paper's ongoing series "After Riley" presented in conjunction with Lowcountry Local First, Preservation Society of Charleston, S.C. Community Loan Fund, Coastal Conservation League, and IfYouWereMayor.com. In it, candidates have been asked to answer a series of questions regarding culture, commerce, and livability. Candidates have responded with no knowledge of any other participant's answers.
The series will culminate on Sept. 30 with a forum put on by these organizations. The forum is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending can RSVP at YourCharleston.org.
What specific steps would you take to create a walkable, bikeable, and public-transit friendly city?
My 10-point plan to improve transportation, Accelerate Charleston, will give residents a reason to get out of their cars. My plan is about thinking big and getting it done. The plan calls for the construction of 50 miles of sidewalks, pathways, and bikeways by 2018. There are commonsense steps we can take, like connecting the Greenway to the Bikeway in West Ashley and increasing signage so that residents know the pathways in their neighborhoods. We must also give commuters a reason to get on the bus. My plan calls for fast, modern, electric buses with internet and traffic signal sensors. When a traffic light detects a bus approaching, the light will stay green, getting commuters to their destinations more quickly. We can pilot these buses in high-density commuting routes, like between Citadel Mall and MUSC, showing residents the benefits of public transit. Charleston should utilize our waterways for transit. My plan calls for piloting a ferry service, particularly between Daniel Island, West Ashley, and the peninsula. Talented and creative workers are key to our economic development. And they want to live in a walkable, bikeable, and public-transit friendly city. Working together we will make great progress on this front.
I would first consider the recommendations from the Peninsula Mobility Report prepared by Dave Klein. After further analysis steps that we can quickly take that are not cost prohibitive like lowering speed limits on certain historic streets, reducing time limits for nonresidents to park on residential streets, limiting large trucks to off peak hours, and changing zoning laws to create a maximum number of parking spaces — not requiring a minimum number of them — should be considered. In addition, we must focus on pedestrian and bike improvements utilizing data gathered from the Downtown Bike Survey conducted by the city to be used in tandem with the mobility report and the updated Tourism Management Plan. The larger capital projects recommended in the mobility report, and the Century V Plan will require a regional approach working in conjunction with the Council of Governments to develop a Regional Transportation Plan.
Alternative transportation may be an easy sell for some, but others may need a bit of encouragement. I would start with a massive marketing campaign that was specifically designed to make the prospect enticing rather than burdensome. There remains a strong perception that public transportation is for the downtrodden and underserved. That simply is not true, but unless you hear a different voice touting the benefits you might not be inclined to buy into the prospect. The marketing needs to be culture sensitive: for example, in inner-city Philadelphia, when asked about bike paths and greenways, residents of blighted neighborhoods selected for rehab, felt those terms were threatening and indicative of further gentrification. What's encouraging is that mass-transit ridership numbers are increasing, and I'm hopeful that the recent leadership change will be beneficial.
Charleston is blessed by its beautiful landscape and natural resources, but those present challenges in terms of providing routes to move in and around our city. Charleston cannot address its traffic woes unless we embrace alternatives to car use, particularly as we shape future development in growth corridors. While on County Council, I demonstrated my commitment on this issue by helping write a mandate to study bike and pedestrian facility options in half-cent sales tax projects. As mayor, I will pursue the development of walkable, transit-oriented communities. I will reexamine our zoning regulations to ensure that they do not impede on the future development of these walkable communities. I will also connect city planners with staff at CARTA so that we can match our growth with transit routes. I would also like to fast-track the Charleston Bike-Share program and expand it off-peninsula to provide an alternative means to help move citizens and tourists across our City.
Well, first, we're lucky here in Charleston, in that we have an organization like Charleston Moves, which has been thinking hard about these issues and working with the City of Charleston for some time now. And a number of smart, sensible proposals have come out of that process, including better signage, light-infrastructure improvements to make biking and walking safer and more practical, and the creation of a major north-south bike corridor on the peninsula. In addition, I believe we that must provide our citizens with a safe way to walk and bike back and forth between West Ashley and downtown, and would also like to see us move forward with a full-scale bike sharing plan of the kind that has worked so well in other cities around the country. In terms of public transit, we need to pursue a strategy based on a regional spinal system, with smaller local spokes radiating out into our neighborhoods and communities. And in order to get that done, we're going to have to work side-by-side with our neighbors to create consensus on a plan that can win the state and federal support that will be required to make it happen.
The streets of Charleston are an important part of our community. They allow children to get to school and parents to get to work. They connect neighborhoods and bring together neighbors. As mayor, I will challenge city planners and engineers to build roads that are safer and provide citizens with more options for transit, such as bike and pedestrian lanes. The goal will be to design streets for everyone. My administration will push for every transportation project in the city to meet standards aimed at making our street network better and safer for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.